Instructions for Killing a Revenant






InstructionsIf it’s blanched and fat with fluid
drop your pick and puncture it.
Stake it through the mouth.
Unsocket and incinerate its heart.
If any home is plagued, nurse each sick
two spoons of ash. If it’s rotted, if
it bears no bloody beard
fold inside its ear a note of absolution.
Consecrate a brick
to stretch inside its cheeks.
Hook a silver blade behind
the tendons of each knee. Unstringed,
she’ll not rise again. Scatter grains of millet
to fill her idle hours—vain, compulsive
accountant of coin and compliment—
she counts. Overturn the box
spill her to the dirt. Strip her. Switch her.
Take this wild rose. Here, take this
Hawthorn branch and lash her naked buttocks.
Purse her in a pack of wild pig.
Disconnect her head
and plug it between her ankles.
Stomp her with a boot.
Light the linen shroud,
club it as it burns, and laugh
and piss on it.


“Instructions for Killing a Revenant” compiles folk advice shared in communities affected by tuberculosis during the New England vampire panic of the late 19th century. 


Rumpus original art by Timothy Taranto.

Lisa Wells is the author of Beast, a collection of poems, and Yeah. No. Totally., a book of essays. Born and raised in Portland, Oregon she currently lives in Iowa City. More from this author →